The Nippers Series
The Nippers series (Macmillan,1971) was conceived to fill what was then a yawning gap in early reader material for kids from working-class homes, with a strong though not necessarily respectable sense of family. The books were the first of their kind with a sense of humour, realistic situations, and colloquial language. |
Every Nipper was written about a specific place, though it was never named, with the real jobs, streets, and idioms of the place, which made the stories particularly vivid. Leila sat in the school playgrounds, listening and talking with the children, and discovered that the most used and valued words were things like "hospital" and "ambulance" and "accident", not "See John, see the boats", as was then typical in early readers, and she wrote accordingly.
At the beginning she was writing them all herself, but later she began to hunt for other writers and artists who understood what she was aiming at. They were very difficult to find at first, but J L Carr, who was later to be on the shortlist for the Booker Prize, and Trevor Griffiths, who later wrote The Comedians, both wrote a Nipper. She went to the newly-opened Carribean bookshop, New Beacon Books, to find non-white writers and artists - again a new idea.
Nippers were greeted first with shock and outrage, then with enormous enthusiasm, and Little Nippers, for under-fives, were started by public demand. Leila tried to get them all placed for sale at supermarket check-out points - at the time this was unheard-of as a retail outlet for kids' books, and her idea was rejected.
There are now three original Nippers and two Little Nippers on this website, available from here.
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